Thursday, January 28, 2010

Dog or Coyote?

Yesterday morning, Bingley, Magic and I were enjoying our morning walk. It was getting on for 5:30am--still dark enough to need a flashlight for poop clean-up, but light enough to see objects against the eastern sky. The storm of the previous day had cleared out and I wasn't concerned about getting the dogs home before the arrival of a downpour.

We had climbed the hill, walked across the crest, and had begun to make our descent, when both dogs went on alert. Across the park at the foot of the hill, I saw a tan animal run from my right to left and disappear into the shrubbery at the edge of the park.

My initial thought was that it was a large, loose dog. But then I realized it might be a young coyote. I couldn't be sure.

So I turned my excited dogs around and headed back the way we had come. The dogs seemed to realize that they had missed their favorite part of the walk, but I couldn't take a chance.

I thought about it all day yesterday. What had I seen? A dog? A coyote? What should I do this morning? Should I walk the usual route and depend on my pepper spray and my dogs' early warning behavior? Should I think about a different route? The problem, of course, is that the route I usually take is the one where I feel safest.

So, with a prayer for our safety, I hooked up harnesses and leashes and off we went on our regular walk. Just beyond the park, both dogs went on alert, looking up into the undergrowth that borders the sidewalk. Bingley responded to my gentle tug and "let's go", but Magic really wanted to go after something lurking in the thick vegetation. I had to speak to her again to break her concentration.

Strangely, I felt relief. I'm pretty sure now that what I saw yesterday and what Magic wanted to pursue this morning was a coyote. A single, probably adolescent coyote. I feel safer. A single adolescent coyote poses much less danger for Bingley and Magic than does a large loose dog.


  1. Relief! There are enough loose dogs around...

  2. Glad you and the doggies are safe. We forget about the wildlife that not only surrounds suburbia but lives with us! One foggy morning I walked to work and as I rounded the corner of my street, I saw a dog standing by the stop sign. Poor dog, he is going to get hit was my first thought. I was about ready to try and call him when the light bulb went off. Oops, not a doggie...just wiley coyote surveying his options for a successful street crossing. It was and my heart stopped racing!

  3. Thanks for the good wishes. There is definitely something of interest hanging out on the hill where we walk.

    This morning, just as I turned with the dogs to start to climb the hill, Bingley went on High Alert and began his "Please Drop My Leashes and Let Me Chase That Critter" whine. So I had to scrub our usual walk in favor of a less enjoyable route.

    We shall see how far we can walk tomorrow morning.

    About a year ago, I had an encounter with a young coyote about a block from my house. Ironically, it was very close to the place where Portia was later fatally attacked by a loose dog.

    The coyote had been tracking us on the opposite side of the street, and finally caught up with us. For a heart-stopping moment, Portia and Bingely stood very still, looking at the coyote, who studied them. Then--I swear the coyote shrugged his shoulders--and turned away, trotting down the coyote path that runs at the top of the hill behind the block where we live.

    I don't long for another coyote encounter, but, so far, my dogs have been in less danger from coyotes than from loose dogs.